FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Plan New Hampshire are pleased to announce the results of the first semi-annual Visualizing Density awards program, which recognizes outstanding examples of dense development, or compact design, in the Granite State.
When most people think of dense development patterns they picture overcrowding, too much asphalt, and other negative elements. Poor examples of density exist and they are often the result of poor design decisions. Good examples of density are the result of a more thoughtful design approach – and there are many here in New Hampshire. Planners, developers and others are finding that this kind of development saves money, encourages economic and social activity, and is a healthy and interesting alternative to traditional development patterns.
So, what does eight units per acre look like? How dense are the villages and downtown neighborhoods we love most? The Visualizing Density project aims to expand our understanding of these questions while addressing the primary reasons people either like or reject density. Qualifying examples in this and future programs will be included in a database which can be referenced by any interested party, and included in Plan NH’s Vibrant Villages NH website.
The first Visualizing Density request for submissions sought a broad range of examples that match the character and patterns found in our rural settings, villages, and urban centers. From a number of excellent submissions, five examples were chosen as outstanding and recognized at New Hampshire Housing’s Strong Homes, Resilient Communities conference on December 12:
Best Rural/Suburban Design:
Project: South Concord
Early in 2012, the Concord Municipal Housing Commission was interested in looking at the potential (under existing or alternative regulations) for several underdeveloped or partially-developed sites in the city. They hired Jeffrey H. Taylor and Associates to do some evaluations.
One parcel of particular interest is in South Concord. It is 22.7 acres, with residential neighborhoods on three sides and a river on the fourth. Jeff Taylor, along with Barker Architects, Fitz Design and Nobis Engineering, first designed a traditional layout of 36 units (1.6 units per acre.)
However, the team also introduced a more compact design plan, which includes formal open space (greens and gathering areas), undeveloped open space, and a variety of lot and building sizes and shapes. This approach fits 52 units, for a gross density of 2.3 units per acre. However, since the buildings sit on only about 15 acres, the net density Is increased to 3.5 units per acre – more than double that of the traditional approach.
This is only conceptual – the owner has no plans to move forward with this. However, it demonstrates how compact design can be interesting and actually increase quality and livability.
The jury saw this as a good example of how traditional architectural design, coupled with traditional neighborhood design and how they fit in with existing neighborhoods can be appealing and work well. The project location is a good one for this type of density, especially as it embraces the notion of maintaining open space while taking advantage of its proximity to schools, a convenience store, and transportation corridors.
Rosemary Heard from the Concord Municipal Housing Commission accepted the award.
Best Adaptive Re-use:
Project: Durham Grange Hall
This structure was built in 1860 as a one-story schoolhouse. In 1893, it was purchased by the Scammell Grange for use as a meeting space, and remained in use until the early 1980’s as a community gathering space. In 1982, it was bought by the town, but sat vacant for many years.
In response to an RFP by the town, developer Peter Murphy hired Isaak Design to develop a variety of concepts for redevelopment, and eventually one was adopted and implemented. It accomplishes several goals for both the Town and the developer, including:
The restoration and rejuvenation of a dilapidated Grange Hall, which is of historic significance to the town
- Using the Grange Hall as a tool to redefine Main Street: by moving it forward fifty feet, its presence is now known
- Maximizing the property with an infill addition (which provides five market-rate apartments)
- First workforce housing units (3) in Durham
- An attractive, viable mixed-use building (yoga studio downstairs, residences above)
- To Maintain and reinforce a popular pedestrian way between Main Street and the Mill Road shopping plaza
- Durham is the first town to adopt the 2012 Building and Energy Codes.
This project incorporates smart growth, urban infill, historic preservation, adaptive reuse, work-force housing, public/private partnership and “green” building.
The jury saw this as an outstanding example of adaptive reuse – one that might inspire other towns with smaller, older buildings.
Architect Nick Isaak of Isaak Design in Durham accepted the award.
Best Infill Project
Project: 10 Pettee Brook Lane, Durham
This is a four-story, mixed-use development that has 8000 feet of retail space on the first floor plus two apartments for those needing easier access and adjacent parking . A south-facing portico provides space for outdoor dining, welcoming pedestrians from the sidewalk.
The second floor has seven student apartments, and the third and fourth floors consist of six townhouse-style apartments (upstairs, downstairs) designed for future conversion to condos.
The tower, which gives a nod to the 19th century mill building heritage of the area, conceals the elevator and a stairway.
A parking garage for 20 cars is in the basement.
The jury was impressed by this project that provides a visual and physical transition point between the UNH campus and Main Street. They felt it “Intriguing how this project deals with growth of a college town” by at once enhancing commercial activity, taking a proactive approach to a housing shortage by providing market rate as well as student housing – all while being sensitive to those who find stairs challenging.
Accepting the award for this project was Nick Isaak of Isaak Design.
Best Historic Redevelopment
Project: Newmarket Mills
This is an outstanding historic example of density. Once a thriving mill, this building is now a mixed-use site: there are several “healthy lifestyle”, artistic and socially-conscious businesses below (including a custom bike manufacturer, an athletic shoe designer and distributor, Buddhist meditation supplies, organic ice cream, a farm-to-table restaurant, a barbershop and salon, and more) and 112 apartments above. Today, there are more than 200 people living and/or working on the mill property
This is also an outstanding example of a necessary partnership – in this example between developer Eric Chinburg and the Town of Newmarket. An M-1, “Mixed Use Mill Redevelopment” zoning district was adopted by the Town to encourage such revitalization – with an emphasis on preserving the historic and architectural character of the buildings while complementing the downtown revitalization and riverfront.
The jury saw this as a “great asset for the revitalization of the entire downtown” and a “beautiful example of mixed-use.” In addition, the project’s features and process undertaken to achieve this outcome can easily be transferred to other projects in other contexts.
Accepting the award for this project were Eric Chinburg of Chinburg Builders in Newmarket and Diane Hardy, Newmarket Town Planner.
Best Urban Design
Project: Portwalk, Portsmouth
There are not many truly urban places in New Hampshire, but Portsmouth provides space for urban planning and design.
Cathartes Investments purchased the Parade Mall property and developed a plan to build a multi-phased, mixed-use development that included a pedestrian-friendly Portwalk, with a hotel and conference center, retail shops, restaurants and places to live. The project is a joint venture between Cathartes Private Investments and XSS Hotels.
Phase 1 of the project is complete, and includes The Residence Inn by Marriott and a 4500 square-foot Harbor Events and Conference Center with its own entrance. Both the hotel and conference center are LEED Silver Certified.
Phase 2, The Residences at Portwalk, have been awarded LEED Gold Certification. This is a 52000 square-foot, 5-story luxury apartment complex which includes 36 apartments with future retail space on the ground floor.
Phase 3 will be completed by 2014. Also seeking LEED certification, this will be a large-scale, mixed-use development that consists of a 5-story, 71,500 square-foot building surrounded by Hanover Street, Deer Street and Maplewood Avenue. It will include a 120-room hotel, 113 residential units and 10,335 square feet of mixed retail and restaurant use. There will be a surface-level parking deck and a one-story underground parking garage.
The jury thought that this was a “fantastic urban project”, attractive, with great street-level mixed use. The jury could not really calculate density here as with the other projects, because hotels are, by their very nature, examples of density. However, the urban look and feel, combined with the architecture that tries to stay in tune with the vernacular of the rest of downtown Portsmouth, make it an example of compact design done well.
Accepting the award for this project was Matt Wirth of Pro Con, Inc.
Plan NH is an organization of engineers, planners, architects, landscape architects, contractors and others who care about what we build, where we build and how and its impact on the health and vibrancy of a community.
New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority is a self-supporting public benefit corporation. The Authority operates a number of rental and homeownership programs designed to assist low- and moderate-income persons with obtaining affordable housing.
Robin H. LeBlanc
Plan New Hampshire
56 Middle Street 2nd floor
Portsmouth NH 03801
NH Housing Finance Authority
32 Constitution Drive
Bedford NH 03110